PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The political newcomer chosen to lead deeply divided Haiti for the next five years says he’s eager to improve the lives of desperately poor families in the long-neglected countryside and bring steady economic advances to one of the least developed nations in the world.
Jovenel Moise, an upbeat entrepreneur, said reviving the economically blighted countryside where almost 80 percent of households farm is one of his major goals. He described the rural poor as the backbone of his homeland’s fragile economy.
“It’s really important to change the lifestyle of these people,” Moise told The Associated Press in his first interview with an international news agency since officials issued preliminary results showing he won the Nov. 20 election in a landslide.
If the preliminary results withstand challenges by three of his closest rivals in coming weeks, Moise will have earned the presidency with 55 percent of the votes in a field of 27 candidates.
The result is supposed to be certified on Dec. 29 after an electoral tribunal resolves the challenges.
In the interview at a Petionville campaign office, Moise said his priorities focus on agriculture, education, energy reform and foreign investment.
He said he’s looking forward to the challenge of building consensus and helping fix a political culture perpetually at war with itself.
“I am working hard to be close with the Parliament because there’s no way a president can work without deputies, without senators,” he said.
Robert Fatton, a Haitian-born politics professor at the University of Virginia, said that Moise will find governing difficult “if he is unwilling or unable to draw some key adversaries into his regime.”
“The next few weeks and months will be bumpy and will test Jovenel Moise’s statecraft and capacity to move the country in a new and hopeful trajectory,” he said.
The still-preliminary November victory came more than a year after Moise topped an initial presidential vote that was eventually thrown out for alleged fraud, leading to a lengthy period of political limbo.
A businessman from northern Haiti, Moise had never run for office until he was hand-picked to be the Tet Kale party candidate by outgoing President Michel Martelly.